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A Breathless Ocean

The ocean provides many benefits to our planet and all the creatures that live there. It regulates the earth’s climate, produces 60 percent of the oxygen for the earth and is an important source of food.   Denise Breitburg is a marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Her research and studies center on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, a large water system that stretches from New York to Virginia. The Bay itself receives about half its volume from the Atlantic Ocean. “I do work on a wide range of organisms, from fish, jellyfish to oysters. Any of the things large enough to see without a microscope. But, I’m also really interested not just in individual animals, but in how it all fits together, how food webs change, how the environment influences evolution and really the ecosystems as a whole.” Breitburg says one thing that has a negative impact on the ecosystem is oxygen decline in the ocean.   “Animals need oxygen to breathe, grow, reproduce and survive. The marine ecosystems require oxygen. But, oxygen is declining in the open ocean and coastal waters because of increasing global temperatures and excess nutrients.”Marine ecologist Denise BreitburgFinding a solution to this problem, Breitburg says, requires spending much of her time doing research and instead of being in the open waters. She also spends time speaking to policy makers and environmental managers to educate them on the issues so they can develop policies that are going to be effective. Breitburg says ocean deoxygenation does not occur in isolation or only in waters in the United States. “I’ve been co-chairing a working group that’s part of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission from UNESCO. It  includes about 20 researchers and scientists from around the world, who all work on various aspects of the problem of low oxygen in the oceans. Waters are warming and acidifying, food webs are changed by fishing and habitat can be degraded by plastics and other pollutants.” This is a problem around the world, says Breitburg. “Everything from fisheries to global models to trying to understand the effects of climate change. Many many places around the world have the same sort of problems that we have here.” Breitburg says the Clean Air Act and other kinds of management of coastal waters has reduced the amount of nitrogen coming into the Chesapeake Bay. In other words, policies, regulations, and research can make a difference over time, Breitburg says. “The Earth’s population has increased. It’s almost tripled since 1950, and things that we used to be able to do when there were many fewer of us just don’t work in a global population this size, and at a time when we still need to think about how to bring people from poorer developing countries up to a better standard of living so that they’re healthy and can lead long lives. And for that to happen, that means each of us having less of an impact on this earth and supporting government actions that will encourage that to happen. So, we can hopefully leave a healthier environment for our children and grandchildren.”     

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Minnesota Music Legend

James Samuel “Cornbread” Harris Sr. is a singer and pianist who performs in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Harris has been a part of Minnesota music history, performing on Minnesota’s first rock ‘n’ roll record, Harris was inducted into Minnesota’s Blues Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Ironman of the Irons

Mark Brooks is no stranger to golf. In fact, he says, “I chose golf, I certainly had designs on maybe doing something else if golf didn’t work out, but it has worked out for me and it is an interesting game.” Mark Brooks plays on the Champions Tour of the Professional Golfers Association. Brooks has seven wins on the PGA Tour, including one major win, the 1996 PGA Championship. He turned became a professional in 1983, and he holds the record for most career starts on tour: over 800 and counting. “I went straight to the PGA Tour. I never played any other tours around the world. I did not have to play the ‘mini tours,’ you know, where you’re scraping by. I went straight to ‘the show.’ You have to qualify. It’s a big qualifier. A six-round golf tournament, played in the fall, and it’s been that way for quite a few years,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to get my first shot right of college.”  Brooks says playing with professional golf players right out of college helped him to realize his own shortcomings and the need for learning how to improve his play. “Once I got on tour, I basically saw that everything about my game needed to be improved.  I had a pretty good swing but I needed these things to change. I made some changes after about five years of struggling, trying to stay on tour, you know, pretty much just kind of gutting it out, playing on instinct.  And within probably four or five months, I saw some dramatic improvement in my ball striking, which, you know, it’s how close you hit it to the hole and hit fairways and all that.  And after about five years on tour, things kind of clicked.” Brooks says although physical abilities matter when playing, the game of golf tests a player’s mental stamina, but he says the game has changed.  “One of the things we’re seeing, the equipment gotten so much better, the golf ball itself, which is integral to playing the game, the ball has changed quite a bit in the last 20 or 30 years. It goes straighter. It goes further. It fights the elements better as far as the wind. Technologies kind of entered the game in a strong way in the last 15 or 20 years, so it’s allowed a different style of athlete, I’m going to say, to do really well in golf,” he says. “So, we’re seeing a little bit of a change, unfortunately, in my opinion, with golf and the characteristics of a person that make you probably be a good player, not a great player. And so, I think a little bit of the mental part has been taken out. They have to figure out how to make golf become more of testing a player’s mental ability other than just a few weeks of the year when you turn on the Masters or U.S. Open. Golf is supposed to be a game of, you know, testing oneself against oneself. The golf course is just an element that’s there to bring those things out.” Brooks still plays on the tour. He says now that he is older, the toughest challenge is dealing with less than perfect play.   “You want to go out there and produce shots that you know you’re capable of, but you know when you’re in your prime years, you can go reproduce a shot eight or nine out of 10 times. Three in a row is easy. As you get older, it is far more difficult to have your body repeat those things. In my opinion, your mind wants your body to do certain things and sometimes your body doesn’t listen. I’ve had knee issue, shoulder issue, you know, back issues, herniated disc, so playing mediocre golf doesn’t feel good. As I’ve gotten older, I think it’s not just patience, it’s just I just don’t enjoy going out there playing really crappy golf. And I think I’m not alone in that regard.” Mark Brooks holds a significant record in the Pro Golfers Association: most career starts. “I’ve played over 800 tournaments that are just the PGA tour alone, and when you start doing the math, you just go, ‘That’s insane.’ I mean, if you play 20 tournaments a year, that’s 40 years. It’s ridiculous,” Brooks says.  “So, I would say that’s probably my greatest achievement.” Brooks says choosing a time to retire from golf has been difficult.  “I had a shot at something pretty big in the early 2000s. I said at the time I would retire if I won that week and I was dead serious and I didn’t win.” So, to my body’s demise and my family, I am still doing it because I did not win that playoff. Retiring is difficult. Golf sort of wanes you off. You are weaned off the competitive circuit. And then I’d love to spend the rest my life, the next 10 or 15 years doing television and teaching good players because I think that’s what I have the most experience with, and the most expertise in.”  

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A Sportswear Solution

When in public, Muslim woman and girls may wear a hijab, a head or body covering that conforms to Islamic standards of modesty. These women may also want to participate in sports without compromising their religion and clothing, and with a sport hijab, they can do just that.Fatimah Hussein is co-founder of ASIYA  (pr. ah-SEE-yah), an activewear company that is changing the lives of Muslim girls and women by producing culturally-appropriate athletic wear. Hussein owns the business with partner Jamie Glover, and the company is named after a woman revered in Islamic history. ASIYA Sport
ASIYA Sport“Many young Muslim girls when they start playing sports, can’t focus completely on the game, because they are also focus on their hijab. They either take it off or don’t play,” Hussein says. “They didn’t have any accessibility of a sport hijab that they felt very comfortable with. Many hijabs require pins as fasteners. When playing a sport, hijabs can be hot and unwieldy.  If it comes unraveled, another player could trip on it, or the pin could jab the wearer or others, making it dangerous for everyone. So, I was like, there should be some kind of a solution for this,” says Hussein.A sports hijab was the answer. ASIYA markets hijabs that are for fast paced physical activity. The headwear is made from a sweat-wicking fabric, designed to be comfortable and safe for play. ASIYA Sport
ASIYA SportHussein, a Muslim woman was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and came to the United States at age six with her parents and sister, fleeing civil war. She says that she played sports in school as a child but was preoccupied with thoughts of her hijab. “This doesn’t look right, this is falling, I don’t feel comfortable inside,” she says she remembers thinking.Hussein is still involved with sports in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her free time, she is a basketball coach. She is also a licensed social worker.  Fatimah Hussein, CEO & Co-Founder of Asiya, Champi
Fatimah Hussein, CEO & Co-Founder of Asiya“A lot of girls in our community want to try new things and play sports, but they aren’t confident, says Hussein. “They’re constantly told they shouldn’t be doing something boys are able to do, they get intimidated,” she says.Hussein also found an indoor neighborhood gym for girls to play sports on their own.She also established Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports (G.I.R.L.S), a nonprofit program for Muslim girls. 0dfbfc6c-39f3-40d8-aba3-1a7a1491e575.jpgHussein talks frequently of identity, community, and taking pride in being a Muslim. She says the hijab is important for Muslim women.“It makes a statement about her identity. Anyone who sees her will know that she is a Muslim, she is modest and has a good moral character,” says Hussein.Hussein says ASIYA is helping to break down barriers for Muslim girls who want to participate in sports. “We view ASIYA as a social venture looking to increase participation rates, as we believe there is huge value in sports participation for young girls in developing critical skills that set them up for success later in life.”         

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US Official Urges Ending Kosovo Trade Taxes Against Serbia

A U.S. State Department official has called for an end to Kosovo’s taxes on Serbian goods so that European Union-mediated talks on resolving the dispute between the former war foes could resume.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer said Monday full normalization of relations between Serbia and its former province is “essential” for the future of Western Balkans.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 which Serbia does not recognize. The EU-mediated dialogue has stalled after Kosovo introduced a 100% tariff on all goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia last year.

Palmer said the tariffs present an “obstacle” for the dialogue and should be “lifted or suspended in such a way that would allow for the parties to return to the negotiating table.”